Steve King blasts Obama administration shift on deportations

Representative Steve King is demanding Congressional hearings on what he described as the Obama administration’s new policy of “executive amnesty to illegal aliens.” My only question is, what took him so long?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the policy change in a letter to senators on August 18. The Department of Homeland Security plans to review some 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts. Undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria will no longer face the threat of deportation, which Napolitano said would allow courts to “more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”

Immigration policy is one of King’s signature issues. Not only does he oppose any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, he wants to revoke birthright citizenship for their children. For that reason, I expected an immediate reaction to Napolitano’s announcement. However, I saw no public comment from King until this press release appeared on his Congressional website on August 25:

King Calls for Congressional Hearings Into Obama Executive Amnesty

Congressman King: “Our laws are to be enforced faithfully, not ignored or defied by the very people whose job it is to enforce them.”

Washington D.C.- Congressman Steve King (R-IA), released the following statement calling for Congressional hearings into the Obama administration’s action to grant executive amnesty to illegal aliens. On August 18, Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Department of Homeland Security was creating an interagency working group charged with a case-by-case review of all illegal aliens currently in removal proceedings. By doing so, the Obama administration is seeking to assume the authority to ignore Congressionally mandated deportations.

“The President of the United States and all his federal appointees take an oath to the Constitution that requires that they ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’” said King. “Our laws are to be enforced faithfully, not ignored or defied by the very people whose job it is to enforce them. I am calling for Congressional hearings on the Obama administration to put the President and all his cabinet members on notice that neither Congress nor the American people will tolerate such contempt for their own oath, the Constitution and the Rule of Law.”

“This is the latest example of the Obama administration acting as if it does not have to enforce laws if it finds those laws to be inconvenient. I will be insisting on Congressional hearings so that President Obama’s appointees will have to answer questions under oath about their use of executive amnesty to reward immigration lawbreakers with the objective of their crime.”

I wonder whether King is even aware that the Obama administration has set records for deportations. In addition to deporting far more undocumented immigrants than George W. Bush’s administration did, the Obama administration has granted deferred action in fewer deportation cases.

Who benefits from sending away 800,000 immigrants during the past two years, most of whom have clean police records? Supposedly, the idea was to show Republicans that Obama is tough on illegal immigration, thereby winning GOP support for comprehensive immigration reform. But Congress failed to make progress on this issue, and Senate Republicans blocked the DREAM Act, which was supposed to create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children. Iowa’s representatives in the U.S. House and Senate split on party lines over the DREAM Act, with all Democrats supporting its passage and all Republicans opposed.

The new policy is more fair and should speed up deportations of criminals:

A working group from the Homeland Security and Justice Departments met Friday to initiate a review of about 300,000 deportation cases currently before the immigration courts. Under the policy, immigration authorities will use powers of prosecutorial discretion in existing law to suspend the deportations of most immigrants who, although they have committed immigration violations (which generally are civil offenses), have not been convicted of crimes.

In particular, officials will look to halt deportations of longtime residents with clean police records who came here illegally when they were children, or are close family of military service members, or are parents or spouses of American citizens. […]

Homeland Security officials said Monday that their goal is to quickly identify noncriminals on swollen immigration court dockets and close those cases, clearing the way for speedier removals of gang members, drug traffickers or foreigners who repeatedly return after being deported. Wait times for a hearing in immigration courts can now be as long as 18 months.

A senior Homeland Security official said that deportations would be canceled case by case. While many immigrants in those cases will be eligible for work permits, he said, employment authorization will come only after a separate process.

The immigrants will remain in a sort of legal limbo, not vulnerable to deportation but with no positive immigration status, which can be conferred only by Congress.

But White House officials and Congressional Democrats said they expected the measures would lead to relief during the coming year for virtually all young illegal immigrants facing deportation who might have won legal status under a bill called the Dream Act.

According to the New York Times, same-sex spouses will be considered “family” when deportation cases are reviewed individually. I suspect King is not aware of that, because otherwise he would have howled about it in his press release.

King would be able to schedule a Congressional hearing if he chaired a House committee or subcommittee, but he was passed over for the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration after Republicans regained the House. It sounds as if Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King of New York may hold hearings on this issue, however. He called the policy change “totally unacceptable” and “a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country.”

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